Fanatics need ice!
Trailer for “Rare Breed, a documentary film by Go Group Media and Corela Film about the Georgian national hockey team
There was almost a moment of excitement in Istanbul yesterday. The Georgian national hockey team could have won the world championship in the third division and move to an upper division. The Georgian hockey team had to procure a victory over the Hong Kong team by a large margin, and the South African Republic (ZAR) had to defeat the Turkish team, the host of the competition, by a small margin.
The Georgian team came to the task brilliantly, winning 14-3. The Turkish team wanted to move to a higher division and it was victorious over ZAR. Despite serious problems during preparation for the tournament, the Georgian team came in second place.
Georgian sports fans will remember this hockey match for a long time to come. The Georgia and Turkey played the opening match at the Third Division World Championship on March 31.
Georgia led after the first period with the score of 1-0. They could have had a more impressive lead, but they failed to capitalize on three goal opportunities.
Later on in the game, the host of the tournament, who was better prepared physically, gradually took the initiative. It must also be noted that, as in any tournament, the referees played a role in the outcome of the match, making several calls in favor of Turkey and a couple of controversial calls that were not made in favor of Georgia.
Being a fan of the sport for such a long time, I was surprised by the fact that Georgia managed to tie the game 4-4 not long before the end of the match. Unfortunately, due to a costly mistake in their zone, the Turkey celebrated the first victory in the competition. There would be the total of five of them.
The players on the Georgian team are enthusiasts and fanatics who have been deprived of normal training conditions. It receives very little outside help. Nevertheless, this team was almost able to win the tournament and move to a higher division!
In order for this to have happened yesterday, on the last day of the competition, Georgia had to defeat Hong Kong team by a large margin and ZAR had to defeat the Turkey by a small margin.
The Georgian team accomplished its side of the bargain, coming out victorious over Hong Kong with the score 14-3. Unfortunately, the Turkey also won its match.
Nonetheless, Georgia came in second place. Second place! Who could have predicted that?
Two years ago, as was expected, it lost all of its matches at the World Championship. At that time, the team’s achievements were measured in pucks they got passed the net not in matches won. They got only pucks past the goalie during the entire tournament.
The Georgian team had its first victories in 2015, and as a result, it was ranked in the middle of the pack. The quality of its matches was better than those for it outside of the tournament, yet at the same time, noticeably worse than that of higher ranking teams.
The tournament in Turkey is special. Georgia was to play a match with Bosnia-Herzegovina after a sad defeat to the Turkish team. This Balkan country has a firm place in Georgian hockey’s history. Last year Georgia was victorious for the first time against the team. In Turkey, Georgia had its first staggering victory with the score 8-0 over Bosnia! It was our hockey team’s first “shutout.
The Georgian hockey players’ second “shutout turned out to be just around the corner. On April 4, Luxemburg, an average team in their division, who played well at the previous championship, became their victim. The score was 5-0 in favor of Georgia.
In my opinion, the Georgian combined team playedits best matches with Luxemburg and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Last year the combined team of the South African Republic played one division up. ZAR had serious intentions to return back to this division. To tell the truth, after the first period, there was little hope for the victory for Georgia, as it was losing 2-4. Besides being ahead of Georgia on the scoreboard, the athletes for ZAR also excelled in physical training, speed and maneuverability.
During the second period the Georgian team underwent a metamorphosis. Only the players know what the coach told them and what had happened in the cloak-room.
In sports, a comeback is a hard feat, and even twice as difficult in hockey, given its peculiarity. Still, the Georgian athletes managed to pull it off. They turned the game around, barely scraping out a victory over the strong team with the score of 6-5!
Theoretically, Georgia had a chance to move to a higher division, but it didn’t work out that way. Maybe that is for the better.
The apparent slight difference in the skills of the teams of the lowest, third division and those in the one above it, is an illusion. In reality, it is a huge difference. Consequently, it is a real possibility that a team will lose all matches after it becomes part of the second division. This is a very strong psychological blow, which has broken many-a-sportsman.
To my mind, Georgian hockey players would fare better in the third division for another year, improve their skills and then gain more public recognition.
I would not like put anyone in the spotlight, as hockey is a team game and either a victory or a defeat is one for the whole team. Regardless, I can’t help mentioning 47 year-old Gocha Jeiranashvili, who still wears a jersey for the national team.
Perhaps he is the oldest hockey player participating in tournaments under the auspices of the International Hockey Federation (IHF). Lengendary Czech superstar Jaromir Jagr is only three years younger.
Jeiranashvili deservedly was awarded the prize for “dedication to ice hockey, which is an analogue to the Canadian Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, awarded annually to the hockey player with the most dedication for the sport. Of course, all players deserve kind words, but Boris Kochkin’s performance should be noted, as he was the top scorer of the tournament.
The team’s tactical diversity and skillfulness is a result of the work of the coaching staff, headed by Dmitry Afanasyev. Of course, they understand better than others that their team has not unlocked its full potential. They know what they have to work on.
The question for Georgian hockey’s team remains: where and how can it work on improving its skills?
The Georgian team’s most pressing problem is the absence of ice. The situation has improved to a certain extent as compared to the previous years, but it is difficult to call the conditions acceptable.
Even those who are able to achieve success in Spartan-like conditions need ice to practice on at least three times a week for at least half of the year. It is a required minimum, but the Georgian hockey team has no such amenities in place.
I’d rather not believe that there are not at least several people among the businessmen of Georgia, a country where sports have always been held in high esteem, who can do a ‘good deed’ for them. Georgian athletes have proved that they are able to win and be successful. The question is not about a large sum of money.
Photo from Gia Oganessyan’s Facebook page. Seen in the picture: the Georgian national team’s forward, the tournament’s top scorer Boris Kochkin and defenseman Gia Oganessyan
Published on: 07. 04. 2016